Paid Advertising Options for Book Sales

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The success of any book depends on a combination of effective marketing and the degree of marketability.

  • Effective marketing strategies help customers in the target audience discover a book.
  • Creating a highly marketable book improves the chances that a customer who discovers the book will purchase the book.

There are numerous free and low-cost marketing ideas out there. Some of these can be quite effective. The great thing about free and low-cost marketing strategies is that there is very little financial risk.

There are also ways to invest money in the marketing. One way to invest money in marketing is through paid advertisements. This is the focus of this article.

What advertising won’t do.

Let me begin by saying what paid advertising won’t do. It doesn’t do the marketing for you.

If you’re tentative about marketing or inexperienced with marketing, paying for advertisements is not a substitution for marketing. You can’t just throw money somewhere to relieve yourself from having to market your book.

So if you were hoping that paid advertising would be the solution to your marketing dilemma, think again. If you’re in this boat, I recommend putting several months of effort into free and low-cost marketing to develop some firsthand marketing experience.

First gain some marketing experience.

If you want paid advertisements to be effective, you will need that marketing experience. There are decisions you must make and things that you need to design where poor marketability decisions will render the advertisement ineffective. You need this marketing experience to help make better advertising choices.

Furthermore, you need to promote the advertisements in some cases, and in any case you need other marketing strategies in place to supplement the advertisements. It will take marketing experience to do this effectively. It will also take connections to help with your promotions. The more time you spend marketing with free and low-cost methods, the more connections you will build through networking in the process. Remind yourself that you’re not just trying to promote your book: You’re also networking and hoping to develop helpful connections (especially, win-win situations, where help runs both ways).

Identify your goals.

What are you hoping for the advertising to accomplish?

If your main goal is to turn a profit, then you need to do a cost-benefit analysis and weigh the risks versus the possible rewards carefully. Figure out how many books you must sell to recover you investment. Try to research data that can help you project how plausible this is.

However, if you are more concerned about initial exposure, but aren’t concerned about recovering your investment quickly, then you should be focusing more on what kind of exposure you might gain from the venture. The risk still matters. The distinction is whether you’re more focused on long-term potential or short-term profit.

What’s your net?

Advertising may lead to an increase in sales. If you have a steady baseline (how many books you sell per day on average), this will help you gauge the effect of your advertising. Specifically, this tells you how many additional sales you are getting per day on average.

What you really want to know is your net profit or loss. Compute your net additional royalty and subtract your advertising expenses.

Keep in mind that sales can fluctuate, increase, or decrease all on their own. There are many complicating factors that you’re likely not to be aware of. The more data you have prior to your advertising campaign, the better you can gauge this statistically.

Advertising doesn’t always lead to an increase in sales. Like any investment, advertising carries risk. The more experience you have with marketing and the better you understand marketability and marketing, the better your advertising prospects; but even then, there are no guarantees.

Some of the benefits are long-term.

Advertising isn’t just about generating short-term sales.

There are many other possible benefits of advertising:

  • Build buzz to hopefully stimulate initial sales, reviews, and word-of-mouth news.
  • Help the target audience discover a new product.
  • Tell people about a short-term sale.
  • Try to boost sales to get onto bestseller lists, which may help to stimulate sales further.
  • Try to stay on bestseller lists once getting there.
  • Brand the title or author name through repetition.
  • Brand the cover by sight through repetition.
  • Get people to associate your book with a distinguished quality.

Commercials very often don’t generate immediate sales. What they tend to do is create a brand name through repetition. Months later, when the customer is buying a product, the customer is most likely to choose a product that sounds familiar. This is called branding. It’s a very important aspect of marketing.

Branding requires patience. It can take many months before a customer has seen your book enough times to recognize it, and then it may take many more months before the customer is in the market for a book like yours.

Advertising can be one part of your branding efforts.

The more people in your target audience hear your book’s name, your name, and see your cover, the more branding occurs.

Advertising can help with this, especially if the ads are targeted to your specific audience. However, advertising shouldn’t be your only attempt at branding. You need to get your cover, title, and name out in front of your target audience through a variety of different resources (a blog, website, social media, blog interviews, blogger reviews, etc.) to improve the chances for the same potential customer to see your book multiple times. This is one more reason that you need to combine free and low-cost marketing with paid advertisements. (You don’t necessarily need to do the paid advertising; that’s optional. You definitely need to do the free and low-cost stuff.)

Advertising books is different from advertising household products.

You’re probably familiar with commercials and other advertisements for household products that you buy in stores or online. What you need to realize is that advertising books is much different.

How many different brands of toilet paper do you need to choose from at the grocery story? You can probably count them on your fingers. You probably recognize a few of these brands from t.v.

Now think about going to buy a book. If you want to buy a mystery, for example, you have to choose from thousands of books. There are many, many more alternatives.

Advertising toilet paper is cost-effective because millions of people will use it and there are only a few brands to choose from. Although millions of people read books, there are also millions of books to choose from.

There are thousands of other authors trying to promote their books. There are also many publishers doing this. Some of the bestselling authors and top publishers invest a considerable sum of money into their advertising campaigns.

All these factors make it a challenge for you to reap a short-term reward from advertisements.

Since advertising is a risk that may result in a loss, the safe thing to do is stick with the many free and low-cost marketing alternatives.

What else can you advertise besides your book?

When you advertise your book, people immediately realize that it’s an advertisement. People generally don’t like advertisements because they are interruptions. For this reason, most people don’t click on advertisements and most people don’t buy the product in the near future. However, the people who see your advertisement and don’t click on it or buy the product may still recognize your book in the future. Advertisements are often more effective through branding than they are in short-term sales.

However, there are other things that you can advertise besides your book. Some of these things may be more effective at generating clicks or sales.

  • Advertise a website rather than the book. If the website has content that will attract the target audience and this is clear in the advertisement, then customers may be more likely to click on it.
  • Advertise a short-term sale. This may help to create a sense of urgency.
  • Advertise a contest. The chance to win something may generate interest. (On the other hand, there are many people who feel that they never win anything, so don’t bother to enter, and there are so many contests that it would be a lot of work to enter them all. Not everyone thinks this way, though, and some people still love contests.)
  • Advertise something that’s free and that your target audience will want to have. There are many possibilities. A free PDF booklet, for example, won’t cost you any money to make, and if it looks nice and has information that your target audience will want, it may draw interest. This can help to get people from your target audience to visit your website and discover your book.
  • Advertise a series. You don’t have to actually advertise a series in the advertisement. You could advertise the first book or the most recent book, and this may help to draw interest in the whole series. If you have a set of books, this makes advertising more economical when you think about the cost per book.
  • Advertise an event, like a workshop or start a special week that relates to your book.

How marketable is your book?

Paid advertisements won’t make up for poor marketability.

A highly marketable book will sell through free and low-cost marketing.

It doesn’t take paid advertisements to sell a highly marketable book; it just takes discovery.

If a book doesn’t have marketability, advertising isn’t likely to help.

Advertising can help a marketable book get discovered and thereby sell more frequently.

See the following link for help assessing your book’s marketability:

In one of my next posts, I’ll discuss some specific advertising options at a few websites that many authors are familiar with.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

15 comments on “Paid Advertising Options for Book Sales

  1. Hummmm. Something to think about. For months, I was annoyed with facebook for posting my book cover image with every blog post that I made that did not have a pic image posted with it. I went to great lengths to “correct” that after some family and friends expressed that they felt I was “overmarketing” my book with the image. Trade offs.

    • @sknicholls I understand–have a similar challenge and rarely post anything book-related to my friends (use separate fan page) although at times acquaintances have said, “I’m glad you shared that update from your book site-reminded me it would be a great teacher gift!” (It’s a children’s book.) It’s tough to balance for sure.

      • Separating your book from family, friends, and acquaintances by using a fan page is a good idea. You’re also right that you can occasionally mention your book on your personal site, too. 🙂

      • My branding was obviously starting to work if it irked somebody with the advertising, right? LOL. I have a separate author page, but all many family and friends who are on my regular page have “liked” my author page, so they get all of my connected blog posts, also.

    • Branding just the right amount is a challenge. You want to get enough repetition to be remembered and recognized, but there is also a danger of overmarketing. The less it seems like advertising, the less it may seem like overmarketing.

      • That is sort of the approach that I have with my blog now. I would like to do some free or affordable advertisements though, because I feel like in that way I would actually be posting the book in places where people go to find books….rather than just a social place. A more specific audience. is one that I have in mind.

    • Trying to find your specific audience is definitely a good goal. Whether or not it may be cost-effective in the short or long run isn’t always easy to project. One thing to look at when choosing an ad service are the stats they post (and also consider to what extent you may be able to trust them), and what percentage of their readership/viewership may actually be active readers. If you can find people who have used the service who may be objective, that may be helpful, too.

  2. Pingback: How to Put Your Book on Sale | chrismcmullen

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